The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
I’ve been trying to feel grateful for the life we had and I do. I feel extremely grateful but when I only focus on being grateful and try to bury all of the other emotions, I feel bad. I feel angry at myself for feeling any other emotion other that gratitude. Then I feel disconnected from the people around me because “they don’t get it”. And mostly I feel guilt. Guilt for feeling angry and disconnected and for basically feeling anything else other than gratitude. So then I try harder to feel grateful and the cycle would continue.
Spray the bottom of the camper with spray foam. This isn’t something I can recommend from personal experience; it’s just something I know some people do. If I were going to do it, though, I would want to make sure I didn’t do any spraying that would prevent me from accessing certain systems if they needed repair. An alternative is to attach foam board insulation to the bottom of the RV.
I’ve been daydreaming about purchasing a 25′ Airstream trailer and hitting the road full time, and have enjoyed many of the posts on your site. Of all the posts across the blog, this is the one I’ve come to the most times as it’s rare to find such detailed and thorough listing of expenses, which is incredibly useful for a total newbie! Our lifestyles and spending habits seem similar, so I find myself returning to this page frequently while planning my would-be road finances.
Fulltime RVers by the nature of our lifestyle are conservationists. We live inside little metal boxes on wheels so we have to be conscious of what goes in and what goes out of our little metal box. Water, in the winter, most likely comes from your fresh water holding tank as discussed in Part Three's post. And then it goes into your waste water tank(s) and has to be dumped, as discussed in Part Two. Because you will be required to both fill and empty, you will want to use the least amount of water that you can.
Thanks for the blog. Do you have any suggested blogs on full time rving with kids? My wife and I have 4 kids and the thought of cutting the cord locally while I still have my sales job (I cover all of So Cal) so I can pretty much go wherever for the timing. Basically changing scenery weekly or monthly sounds fun. Just didn’t know if you had any details on doing it with 4 little ones. Thanks!
Then estimate your future lifestyle costs that you need to add in (the numbers we share below will help with that). These include your fuel costs and your vehicle insurance and registration fees for both vehicles that make up your rig, whether it is a motorhome/car combo or a truck/trailer combo. If you have chosen your domicile city/state, you can do very specific research to estimate your future vehicle insurance and registration fees. We have some notes on domicile selection on our full-time RVing page.
Just as a mortgage might be this is the largest expense we incur. It is also the most important though. The biggest difference is that we don’t pay rent on our land in North Carolina. It is paid for and other than a very small yearly, personal property tax, is little liability. Lot rent is the payment we make to a campground, state park, city park, etc. to park our travel trailer, have access to water, electricity, and (more times than not) sewage, and parking for our truck. Most spots we choose also come with room for our daughter to play, us to have a small patio area, WiFi, and access to a number of campground amenities including a swimming pool, jacuzzi, shuffleboard, basketball court, playground, etc. So unlike personal home rent or mortgage payments our lot rent gives us exposure to a community of people who are like minded and love to live life to the fullest!
Jay, you have made some very big assumptions here and they are wrong. As for our expenses, they are very accurate and contrary to popular blogging beliefs we don’t all get everything for free. Our meals, fuel, insurance and all of our day to day expenses that everyone else has, are not free. We pay for everything, including our RV. We have actually gotten very little for free over the years and when we do get something in exchange for review, you’ll see it noted. Expenses vary greatly per person. Even within these comments you’ll see others spending way less and way more. We blog, because we like sharing our experiences and helping others. If you don’t find that we are doing that for you, then you are correct, time to move along.
If all you need is a little connectivity on your phone I’d suggest looking at one of the ATT-based Straight Talk plans at Walmart. If your phone accepts it you can buy a SIM at Walmart and then you just pay flat $45 per month for “unlimited” talk/text/data. I put the unlimited in quotations because the fine print says that you get unlimited talk/text but only 5GB of full-speed data (after that you’re throttled pretty heavily). That might be enough for you though? The nice thing about Walmart is that it’s non-contract plan so you can try it for a month and if it doesn’t work out you can just ditch it and do something else. ATT doesn’t get you as wide coverage as Verizon, but it’s pretty darn good. We have it on our phones right now.
When we first started on the road we rushed like crazed animals on stampede to see as much and as far an area as we could possibly see within the timeframe given. It took several months before we realized none of this was necessary. In fact taking more time to enjoy our surroundings not only saved us money, but we’ve met more people, seen more local gems, created a sense of community and felt more in-tune with the journey. Our 2-month trip through New Mexico earlier this year was a great example of how this attitude has really made sense for us. We are progressing more and more into “sitters” (RVers that spend several weeks in one spot) rather than “movers”. It may not be for everyone, but I sure recommend giving it a try.
Propane allows us to run the furnace, cook, and (if we choose) have hot water. We try to use it sparingly by cooking outdoors on the grill, wearing ample clothing during cold seasons, and use campground showers when possible (and inviting enough.) Filling our propane is easy enough as a number of RV resorts offer on-site fill or contract a company to fill your tanks on-site. You can also exchange tanks or fill them at truck stops like Flying J, Loves, and others. The average in most states is $22 for exchange and $18 for a refill of a 10lb. tank.
Nothing could be further from the truth! We too were concerned how our dog Ella and cat Mr. P would handle life on the road. But we quickly learned, they might actually enjoy it more than us! Longer driving days certainly took a little getting used to, but in short time Mr. P loved his spot on the dashboard basking in the sun while Ella reveled in our 20-minute play sessions during travel day stops.
If water freezes in your lines, you're in for a bad winter. Full time RVing requires you to prioritize your plumbing in a way that you might not otherwise consider. Your city water hookup may need to be insulated and wrapped in electrical heat tape. Fresh water tank will need to be filled and emptied every day so it doesn't have a chance to freeze overnight, you don't have to top it off though. If you want to reduce your work on your plumbing, you can find RV tank heaters which can keep everything from freezing up under your RV. For your black tank, you might want to consider swapping your traditional sewage hose out for a semi-permanent PVC fixture, as long as it's at an appropriate slope your waste will drain right down without a chance to collect and freeze up the works.
This item covers all supermarket purchases, including groceries, household cleansers, toiletries, laundry detergent, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and anything else that can be found at Walmart, Safeway, Albertsons, Target and other places. Our rig is fully outfitted, but occasionally we get a small kitchen appliance or pick up a DVD. Those things get lumped into this number.
RV’s have lots of moving parts and components. Which means, a pretty much never ending to-do list, and parts and labor can get pretty expensive. Thankfully, Brett is pretty handy, so he can tackle most of the jobs that pop up. We have also had really good luck in finding fellow campers that were experienced and willing to step in and help out when he got in over his head.
Slide outs – Are slide outs a must? If so how many and where? Two slide out bunkhouse trailers tend to put one in the back bedroom and another one in the middle living area. Three slide out trailers have a few more options. Some have one in the back bedroom and two in the middle. Others have two in the back bunkroom and one in the middle. A few have one in each room. Regardless, if we decide we “need” slide outs, we are trying to decide if we want more space in the living room or bedrooms. We are leaning towards extra living room space but trying to decide how important double living room slide outs are to us.
The form your money is in makes a difference in how you RV and what your expenses will be. If you have a big income that comes from a limitless source (a pension and/or Social Security), then a large personal loan on a new luxury Class A motorhome may be just fine and the nightly expense of high-end RV parks won’t be a problem. However, if you are trying to make a small nest egg last to your dying day, and you are not even retirement age yet, you may be best off spending a portion of it to purchase your RV outright, rather than paying interest on a loan, and you will also be looking to save money on camping and overnight parking.
$1,277 Hawaii Trip – We flew to HI for a friends wedding, it’s amazing how expensive 1 week of travel outside the RV can be. Our friends paid for several dinners, entertainment, and our hotel room yet we still ended up spending this much! This amount includes Cat Hotel ($252), Food, Drink, Pedicure Spa day, and groceries. This price doesn’t even include our airfare! It’s nice to get out of the RV for a few days but the expense is hard to chew.$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this buffer.
I think a lot of expenses could be eliminated for sure. Dr electric you could easily convert to solar power. Solar panels can be quite inexpensive. The batteries for charging can be costly to purchase but in the long run will save thousands of dollars with solar. You can still hang dry your clothes on hangers in your rv. As far as washing, if you are at a park that provides water/sewage you could easily put in a portable all in one HE washer dryer. May cost around $800-$1200 but again will save $$$ in the long run. Stop eating out. It substandard food anyway and isn’t good for you. If you are all in the rv together on a regular basis, eliminate a phone. There no need for 2phones. If you are writing several letters in a week,unless it’s an emergency, you could have much news to share. I for one would rather have a portable internet connection. That would probably be one of my biggest expenses. Just some suggestions that may cost a bit in the beginning but will end up being the best purchases to save you money over a long period of time.
To make money blogging you need a very significant traffic flow, first and foremost. Plus you need to partner with advertisers and such. It’s possible, but I would certainly not rely on this as your main source of income in the beginning of your travels. It can take years to build up the traffic levels & SEO on your blog so you can create the types of partnerships you need to make a living. So my advice is to have a plan to make money elsewhere, especially in the beginning. As time goes on and you create enough valuable content to build your blog traffic, you can start to rely on some income from it, but be prepared for some growing pains to get there.
Most RV fridges are tiny and hold ¼ of what a standard size fridge holds, so planning is a must before making the trek into town to the grocery store. You have to know exactly what you will be cooking and how much space you have. Throwing “extras” into the cart can’t happen. That’s why I don’t take Brett with me shopping. He is the worst about buying off the list!
I’m 25 years old and have a 3-year-old son. My husband and I will be debt free within a year and have fallen in love with the idea of becoming full-time travelers and world schooling our child. My biggest question is, how do you plan out the cost of living? I work virtually so we’d have 1 full-time income and my husband is investigating ways to make money on the road. We don’t want wait until retirement to travel and we want our son to experience the world (or at least our continent)! Any help is greatly appreciated!
The number one thing that needs to be done to prepare an RV for LIVING through the winter is find a place to park so that you don’t have move the darn thing. Trust me on this, once the cold weather sets in, you do not want to have to move it. Roads are slick, cross winds are brutal and water lines WILL freeze without heat. Making your ‘home on wheels’ stationary for months at a time takes some fore thought.
Will we be traveling around the country in an RV forever? No. We have an end date in mind, though we still aren’t quite sure where we will settle or what that will look like. We are viewing this trip as a bit of a reset for our whole family — a way to reprioritize what matters and to spend a year making incredible memories together. Sure, the youngest will probably not remember any of it, but we like to say he will remember this trip in his bones.
$2,070 Cat Expenses: For safety we had to board our cats for several days during the festivals we attended, and for 3 weeks during our Best of the Road competition. Singa had to visit the vet for a cut in his eye from chasing lizards into the brush, and both cats got caught up on their shots/vaccinations. This price also includes their Food, Litter, and Wild Caught Salmon from the grocery story (yes they’re a little spoiled)
Sure, it means you may have to wait a little while ‘till you can afford it, but it’ll be worth it. We all want to be on the road ASAP, and there’s a certain excitement to throwing caution to the wind and going for it, but we always recommend being financially prepared first. There’s no need to add financial stress to your RV experience. Buy what you can afford, or save ‘till you can afford what you want.
Connectivity is a big topic for full time travel, and we’ve managed to keep ours down. We used cheap pre-paid cell phone plans and use older phones. We are on cheap 15GB/month Total Wireless from Walmart for our phones and were able to get our hands on a AT&T Mobley this past summer (now unavailable) that keeps our internet cost down. Total we spend less than $100/month on this category.
I’m a Thousand Trails zone pass member. I pay $35/mo +$3/night. En route to TT Parks I generally use my 50% discount with Passport America to keep it under $20/night. On average, I pay close to $200/month lodging, utilities included. My average trip costs me $60 in gas. Averaging around 3 moves per month puts me at a little less than $400 per month in travel/lodging.
Sounds about right, not to mention personal expenses like student loans and taxes in our case, you are also paying for the experience of seeing amazing places – each visit to a state or national park is a donation towards preserving it for the future, each meal you eat in a kitschy restaurant is a memory to share that saving money can’t replace. Once you get away from the east coast, you might see things get a little cheaper as well. The smaller the town, the less chances to eat out and more BBQ memories you can have, also if you buy gallons of liquor for mixed drinks rather than wine or beer, you can save. We spend a lot on gas to get to the cool stuff in our truck because it’s a 350 diesel, but for us, it’s a full time lifestyle that we wouldn’t trade for anything and the extra costs are just part of the awesome things we get to do and see.
I’ve been traveling since then, staying exclusively at spots where I can spend the night for free — Walmart parking lots for the most part. They have all welcomed me warmly when I ask at customer service if RVs are allowed to spend the night. It helps that I use a smartphone app to find Walmarts that do allow you to stay ahead of time, but I always confirm when I get there regardless.
4. Exercise: Sitting in a moving vehicle is no healthier than sitting at home, so plan to schedule regular exercise, just as you would living in a house. Long hikes, walks, bike rides, and runs are great ways to get the most out of your destination. Also, be sure to take turns driving during long hauls so that everyone can stretch out and move around.
We lived full time in a camper a couple of years ago while we were building a house. It DOES has its challenges… The biggest one we encountered was the campground we stayed at… But once we got that fixed it was actually very nice… Some things I would think about/plan for: laundry, make an outside living space, make sure you have reliable internet, and food storage.
When you trade your home address to live on the road in an RV, you need to decide how to receive mail and what to call “home” on your tax returns. Some of the full-time RVers we meet retained the state of residence where they were living before they hit the road. Most of them still own property in that state, and they often have a relative or friend who forwards their mail.
Feature-wise you’ll find that the Eagle has a lot of appreciable features. A ‘whisper quiet’ 15,000 BTU Air Conditioner and an electric patio awning with LED. Jayco has also added a ‘luxury package’ to this camper by default which adds a sound bar, frameless windows, handcrafted maple cabinet doors among other things too. If you wish to take it up a notch, there are over a dozen expansions and optimizations available, which truly makes this a best-in-class fifth wheel!
My first winter after living in the COMET for the summer and fall, I rented a TINY 50 square foot closet under the stairs in a collective house/commune and lived there over the winter. Yep, just like Harry Potter. It was less than $100/month and included communal meals and utilities/basic living supplies like soap and toilet paper (bulk items, basically).
In the end, the decision was made easy by the amazing views out my window every day. From my perch high above the Columbia River and Wenatchee Valley, I could enjoy the ever-changing scenery, which varied throughout the day with changes in light and weather. I could watch low-level clouds form and dissipate over the river. I could see the shadows move and lengthen with the shifting of the sun. I would watch the moonlight play upon the hillsides and cliffs. And I could marvel at the lights down in the city, sparkling with color. Would I see all that cooped up in a tiny rental apartment? Or closed up in a cavernous hangar with just three windows? No.
Not only does it not exist in the RV but also at the campsites! Sometimes we will be at a place where no one else is there – but most of the time we have people living right next door to us and a lot of the time those neighbors are literally right there – as in our awning would touch their campers! This can be stressful if one of the kids is having a breakdown and we don’t want the whole campsite to hear. But normally it is just helpful for all of us to work on keeping our voices down and not yelling at each other!
Storage is a tough one. We initially did storage because we weren’t sure we’d be on the road that long. If we’d only RV’d a year that would probably have worked out fine. Of course 6 years later we’re still here and still paying for storage (it’s so darn hard to get rid of once you do it). No right answer for this one, but I think the less “stuff” you keep, the freer you’ll feel in the road. Best of luck with everything!
Seems like you have came to the same conclusions as we have for winter AK living! Only one disagreement: solar. Nice, love it, but we actually found our honda eu1000 generator to be more cost effective for the initial purchase and more reliable. I think that is why so many rvers go that route. I really want to try a wind turbine although! We both know how much wind we get.
Anyway, what a great life you are living, I love it but want to be more stealth than you are so I can park anywhere. I just spent a few months off and on in Canmore Alberta and you could tell who the guys in the campers were and I met a few who had stealth down to a science. They were totally off the grid and didn’t leave their unit physically where they slept and the vehicles just looked like PMVs with a couple of quirky things on them like low stacks and vents. The cube will look just like a work truck with exterior tool box doors except for the furnace exhaust but many work trucks are heated so I will have an edge.
Besides, since I’d been living in the mobile mansion full-time since the beginning of June, it had become my home, my space. Bought to house two people, a mid-sized dog, and a parrot, it was amazingly comfortable for one person and a tiny dog. After dealing with seemingly countless delays, I’d finally moved it to the piece of land I’d been dreaming about for over a year. I was in my home, on my home. I was loath to give that up, even for a few months.
My husband and I have decided to sell our home and look for a place that is more “us” while he has to travel for work. We currently have 3 children and two dogs and have looked extensively at RV’s before deciding on a 5th wheel sprinter with a bunkhouse. I know the journey will be something to learn and get used to but we decided that if he has to travel with his work then we want to travel with him. Going from a 2k+ sq ft home to even a large 5th wheel is a very very hard thing for myself and my teenage girls, but when we look at the larger scale and we will finally have to travel it gets so much easier. More time with dad and going places we couldn’t before because our house ties us down with mortgage and bills. My 3 yr old son is just happy to have his dad around more often. I have been looking for all the advice I can on the net and this has been useful for the start up, less is better for us because along the way you may acquire more. I make jewelry one of my daughters is an artist and my other daughter is into design so we have sat down to make sure we have gotten our priorities right. For me living in the RV until we are able to find our place is a way to learn to let go and focus on what matters. I spend little time with my kids doing the stuff we want to do and more time cleaning and organizing and running errands to keep all that up. And when my husband gets to be home we end up spending more money just to get out and spend time together with the kids. So for anyone out there who is also considering this way of life, I say find out what it means to you. Take good advice from blogs like this and enjoy! Thank you for the great advice blog and to those who commented more great advice!
The Meinhofers have met a lot of families with kids on the road, but they haven’t encountered many other Latinos. They think there’s a perception in some communities of color that doing this means you are destitute. They are trying to inspire others to join them with their YouTube channel, Exploring the Local Life, which has become so popular it is making them money.